DEAR READERS: This has to do with relationships, what makes (and keeps) them happy and functioning and what to do when the next one crosses your path so that the finale will be sweet.
You might say that what follows is a formula for coupled bliss, but I like to think it is more than that: a brief primer for marriage.
Oh yes, I know, this is supposed to be a singles column, dealing with the issues that loom large in the life of the unmarried. But when push comes to shove, doesn't every single person want to be married, snag and comfy in a paired arrangement? Every single person I know has that as a secret dream tucked away as No. I on their wish list.
Now, that is not to say that every unmated man and woman would do anything to get married. These days women - and men - want marriage on their terms or not all. And because being single today brings almost all of the options of being married, that's OK with most of the people around them. But in their heart of hearts, they'd like to be part of a marriage that meets their terms and live happily ever after. Consider a few guidelines:
* Commit yourself to the relationship. Formal vows at the altar are for society and relatives, but the real stuff is making a promise yourself to see this thing through trying times.
* Don't gloss over differences in an attempt to avoid arguments. Finding a solution or middle ground is one of the best ways to actually come closer, to understand your mate (and yourself) better.
*Seek professional counseling if resolution seems too difficult to come by.
* Learn to listen for hidden cues in the words being said, look for the feelings behind them and the message they are really giving. Don't be too thin-skinned to admit fault.
* Don't think of fleeing back to the single world at the slightest imperfection you find in your mate; that is the decision of last resort, the final step to be considered only after many stabs at resolution.
* Admit it; love demands work. A relationship is mutual effort, no less. And that glorious extra is gained only when both partners put into action what they have said in words.
The real mind shift behind a lasting love partnership is the realization that coupled bliss just does not happen, is a gift from God or lucky crapshoot. Hunkering down and refusing to budge when conflicts arise is the winning way, the approach that pays off.
Oh, I know. The person you married is not the one you said "I Do" with. Your spouse falls asleep during old movies and eats too much on holidays. With the familiarity that is the blessing of marriage comes some amount of disillusionment It can't be helped - the day-to-dayness that seems so delicious when you're single can be stifling, boring, disappointing up close.
But only a child cuts and runs because of that, only a fool cashes in the chips when it looks like a losing streak, when he knows in his heart he made the right calculations and is betting on a good thing. Only the immature believe that they picked the wrong person because they find a flaw in their beloved. As Shakespeare put it: "Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds."
Finally, instead of making your single phase an obsession to find the right mate, be the right mate. The rest will follow. That's the way to wrap up last year and to begin this new year, by resolving to be the kind of person you want to find. That way, you'll enjoy being in your own company - and so will others. And since like attracts like, the right kind of person will gravitate naturally to you. What better way to begin!